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The Gift of Unlimited Upside by Mike Hannan
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John McGrath, speaking at the Pharma PPM Toolbox in London, said that there is simply no excuse for not having enough resources on a project.
Now I know many of you will be disturbed by this statement, but I think he's more-or-less correct.
It's like when a bridge collapses. Bridges don't just collapse, you see (not that I'm a bridge expert, but work with me here.) There is always a reason for the collapse; you designed it wrong, you used the wrong material, you allowed too many trucks on at once, etc.
It’s the same way with projects. There's always a reason when you run out of resources and it's almost always avoidable. Let's look at some of those reasons and work out what can be done about them.
There’s an old joke about CIO standing for “Career Is Over”. This joke was doubtless crafted in the forge of poisoned-projects, blown budgets and detonating deadlines.
Just like in the TV show, the Apprentice, project failure can end the CIO’s tenure (there certainly are cases where that’s happened). Imagine what it will do to a PMO leader... Perhaps the PMO might, one day, become a joke of its own... an acronym for someone likely to be Pre-Maturely Ousted, perhaps?
So, in an environment where 72% of PMOs are being called into question, it seems appropriate to ask, "What can be done to reduce the risk?"
As a teenager, I was addicted to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Douglas Adams’ masterpiece was filled with wry observations about human nature and one scene in particular has been coming back to me recently. In it, the Golgafrinchams are trying to invent the wheel. They make a total hash of it, but the only thing they worry about is what colour it should be. Classic!
Nobody has really reinvented the wheel for a few thousand years now, so why, oh why, do so many PMOs try to reinvent the wheel when it comes to prioritizing projects?
Nearly two thirds of PMOs identify resourcing or prioritization as their top challenge.
But these are topics that are not massively difficult to address. In fact our consulting partners deal with these topics time and again with their customers.
And yet one of those partners, Greg Gomel, during a recent podcast on this exact topic mentioned that he often feels like the stereotypical consultant borrowing his customers watch and then telling them the time when he talks about this stuff. Why?
How often have you heard the cry, “If we just did without a project manager we could save a load of money!”
Of course it's nonsense. For any project worthy of the name, a professional project manager will reduce the risk and overall cost of implementation. No "serious" professional would really strip out all the PMs.
Yet “Why are we spending all this money on a PMO?“ is a common cry, one that poses a real threat both to the PMO and the success of the portfolio. Only half of PMOs survive the first few years (APM). In fact, according to ESI research, 72% of PMOs are called into question by the executive team.
Look at it this way; without a conductor, an orchestra would produce a terrible cacophony. (Disclosure: my brother plays in one of the world's top orchestras). It's the same for a project portfolio… only the costs of a weak portfolio can be much worse than the noise of bunch of unsupervised musicians.
In short, the business case for the PMO is every bit as strong as the business case for the project manager.